Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Race Report: GO! St. Louis Half Marathon

I was fairly excited to race the GO! St. Louis Half Marathon this year since I had recently improved my time for a 5k. This half marathon would have shown me what pace I am capable of maintaining for 13.1 miles, helping me better prepare for my first marathon.

This year the race organizers went with a corral start. I was placed in corral B and felt it contributed to a much smoother start. I lined up with the pace group I thought I would be compatible with and never really had a problem keeping the pace I wanted. There was plenty of room to maneuver and adjust pace. In fact I may have gone out a little too fast, just because I had the opportunity to do so.

I was able to keep my pace fairly consistent throughout the race (8:30 min/mi). I may have pushed myself a little too hard on some of the hills in order to keep pace. I lost about 10 seconds off my pace on one of the last hills and wasn't able to recover.

I finished the GO! St. Louis Half Marathon in 1 hour and 54 minutes at an 8:41 min/mi pace (avg speed of 6.9 mph). I am very happy with this time as my previous finish on the same course last year was 2 hours and 10 minutes. My best half marathon time is 1 hour and 53 minutes at an 8:31 min/mi pace and that took place on a fairly flat course.

I am also considering my 1:54 finish time an accomplishment considering start temperatures were above 65°F with high humidity. By the end of the day, temperatures had climbed to near 90°F. Due to the heat and humidity, race officials decided to divert marathon and marathon relay participants to the half marathon course around mile 9, just about 2 hours after race start.

I had trained all winter long and even ran parts of this course a couple times prior to the race, but I can fully admit that I was not acclimated to the heat given this was the beginning of April. Everyone I had talked to agreed it was brutal out there, making a very tough course that much tougher.

The event went well from my perspective and I am looking forward to next year. Congratulations to all who finished any of the weekend events!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Base Building and Half Marathon

The GO! St. Louis Half Marathon is coming up this weekend and my last month of base building went almost as planned. I threw a curve ball at my training schedule when I did some impromptu speed work. I have been happy with my pace, but thought I would give it a try after speaking with a running friend.

A week after my first speed workout I had a break through week. Either I hadn't been pushing myself hard enough in the past or my speed workout took hold faster than I thought it would. That week I ran my fastest 5K (3.10 miles) in 24:37 minutes at a 7:56 pace. This is after I had been unsuccessfully trying to break 25:00 minutes on the same 5K course. With that under my belt I wanted to get back to my base building and ended up running my furthest distance to date (15.25 miles) in 2:28 at a 9:43 pace.

So my goal this month was to finish with four consecutive 30 mile weeks, but given the progress of my speed work, I am happy to finish these last two weeks with 30 and 32 miles respectively. I still don't have a clear goal for how I want to run my half marathon this weekend. Initially I was going to treat it as a training run, but now want to face it as the race it is.

I went into my first half marathon with the intent to simply finish strong and ended up nailing my estimated time of 2:10. I wanted to break 2:00 hours for my second half marathon and ended up crushing that time with a 1:53 finish, although the course was a lot flatter. My half coming up this weekend is the same course as my 2:10 finish... so again I will be happy with anything better than 2:00 hours, but it would be nice to finish with a time closer to how I finished on the flat course.

I still have a few more days to think about how hard I want to push myself and will post a race report here next week. Good luck to everyone running this weekend!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Marathon Training on Schedule

One month of marathon training down and I am feeling pretty good. I am about half-way through with what I am considering base building. Over the last four weeks I have been able to hit my goal of 20-25 miles per week with my long runs being in the neighborhood of 10 miles.

During the next month of base building I will be increasing the distance of my short runs while trying to maintain their intensity. This will increase my weekly mileage goal to 30 miles per week and lead me right into the GO! St. Louis Half-Marathon. I may have a few race reports to post before then.

After my half-marathon I will begin to focus on running distances I have not yet attempted and looking at what changes may need to be made to my current plan… I already have a couple ideas I need to look at a little closer. I am beginning to think that the training leading up to a marathon may be more than half the excitement.

Things learned: Those warm up runs do help. I always thought the runners who ran a mile before a race to “warm up” were crazy and expending unnecessary energy (fuel). I may not do it before a big race, but running a mile to warm up before my long run has helped me finish strong and at a faster pace.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Marathon Training Officially Begins

My marathon training officially begins this week. I found enough training programs through various sources that I was able to modify and merge a few of them to meet my own goals and needs. Most of the marathon programs out there range between 12 and 18 weeks, where as I have almost twice that much time to train. I will be continually adjusting my program as I get a better feel for what it is I am about to take on.

I have broken my training down into four parts:
  • The first nine weeks will focus on building a base and preparing for my spring half-marathon.
  • The following nine weeks will focus on extending my long runs, hoping to include two 20-mile runs.
  • The remaining bulk of my training will focus on maintaining the distance achieved on my long runs while slowly building to a peak of 23 miles, just about 5-weeks before the marathon start.
  • The final weeks of training will consist of reducing my weekly and long runs to prepare for race day.

I don't believe I will be incorporating any intervals or tempo runs into my program since I am not trying to achieve a faster pace. This is my first marathon and my goal is to finish the race strong, although I would like to finish in under 4-hours. It is hard for me to accurately guess my time since I have not run any further than 14 miles. Realistically, I am giving myself a 30-minute window, hoping to finish somewhere between 3:55 and 4:25.

More to come as training begins to take shape!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Running In My Kahtoola MICROspikes

Snow Run in Tower Grove ParkWe have flurries in St. Louis today with the possibility of 3 to 5 inches when it is over. I say bring it on! I would love to break out the Kahtoola MICROspikes for the third time since getting them this last Christmas. We usually don't get a lot of snow, but just enough that it used to keep me inside or sent me to the gym for a trip on the treadmill. This is the photo I took on December 26, 2010 during my first run in the MICROspikes. As you can see, the route I take for my usual run looks pretty icy. This is where I felt the MICROspikes earned their keep and performed their best.

MICROspikes trackI could barely even tell I had them on and was able to continue on my run regardless of the weather. As I ran I could hear the spikes digging into the ice, reassuring me that they were doing their job. The snow and ice slowed me down a little, but not by much. I was able to run my usual 5K loop in 28:51 minutes at a pace of 9:18 minutes per mile. The tracks I left in the soft snow had also shown me how well they were staying in place and providing the traction I needed. This photo is of a foot step during my run, showing the chains and spikes beneath my running shoe.

I have been very happy with the Kahtoola MICROspikes as they fit tight, do not slip, are light weight and have been very easy to take on and off. Initially, they were not what I had wanted. I was reading through some running blogs before Christmas and saw mention of "Yaktrax" being ideal for traction in the snow and ice. I mentioned the Yaktrax to my wife (okay, hinted strongly), but luckily for me she doesn't buy anything without reading all the reviews first... and in her mind the MICROspikes beat out the Yaktrax.

Kahtoola MICROspikes

Kahtoola MICROspikes

I have since been doing some reading about MICROspikes and feel she made the right decision. During my research I have read instances where runners had used them for trail running as well, although they are most widely used for winter hiking, walking and running. I am wanting to do a little trail running this year and am very anxious to try them out in that environment.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year and New Challenges

I felt like I finished 2010 with focus. I had the week off between Christmas and New Years, which gave me plenty of time to run and an opportunity to try some new running gear Santa had left under the tree. I was able to log 25 miles that week... 3 miles in my new Vibram Fivefingers Bikila running shoes and 6 miles using my Kahtoola MICROspikes. My run in the VFF Bikilas felt pretty good and the MICROspikes exceeded my expectations for running in the snow and ice. My long run for the week was 10 miles. I felt like I could have easily tacked on another 3 miles, but I did not want to over extend myself.

I am looking forward to 2011, having already added several new races to my calendar, including my first marathon in October. I am getting close to finalizing my marathon training program, but would welcome any advice from those who have already put a program together or trained for a marathon. Several other new additions this year include the use of and utilizing this blog as an online training journal. The activity I have seen on the probably excites me the most. This is a great social networking tool for runners, making it easy to find training partners, local events, running routes and groups, etc.

I do have a few things I would like to improve on this year, including adding more cross-training into my schedule and improving my core. I also hope to eventually add a running pod cast to my blog as I have gained valuable knowledge through many of the pod casts found at and Hopefully my pod casts will be as motivational and informative, or at least half as entertaining as the ones I have been listening to on a regular basis.

I hope to add more race reports and running content as my training picks up. At least we are past the shortest day of the year as I find it hard to get motivated on a cold morning when the Sun is no where in sight.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Who Am I?: A Post About Me

I had always been some what of a recreational runner, but never for any real duration.  By recreational I mean I had never entered a race, never mapped out a route or kept track of how far I ran. As long as the weather was nice, I wouldn’t hesitate to head outside for a run… simply enjoying the experience.
It was the fall of 2008 when I noticed a flyer at my son’s school for a 5K race.  The race was geared as a “Family Fun Run” and took place just a few hundred yards from our house, so I signed us up.  I hadn’t done any running in quite some time and my son was only 6-years old, so we took it slow and easy… running a bit and then walking a bit more (trying not to get passed by the baby strollers).  According to the local running store that was keeping time, we finished our first 5k in 49:14 minutes, a pace of 15:51 minutes per mile.
After the race my wife encouraged me to continue running and stated that it seemed to come natural to me. Her comment and the idea of running stuck in my head, but the idea got pushed to the back of my mind as colder weather approached.  That next spring of 2009 my sister ran her first half-marathon and placed in her age group.  This is something I never knew someone in my family was capable of doing and I was proud of her for doing it.
I then came to a turning point in my life. My wife told me she had checked her blood pressure in a store and found it to be high.  I told her it was probably just work related stress or something else that had escalated her blood pressure that day.  That next week we stopped at another machine and checked her blood pressure again with the same result.  I decided to sit down and have my blood pressure checked as well.  Our results scared me into changing the way I ate and forced me into focusing on a more active lifestyle.
I was happy to get back outside and hit the pavement.  I started running in a park across the street from our house, using a small loop that my Children’s school used to measure miles for their walk-a-thon events.  For the first time in my life I was unable to run a continuous mile and found myself having to stop and walk to catch my breath.  I kept at it for several weeks and remember a sense of accomplishment once I was able to run the entire one-mile loop without stopping.
That summer I tried to get out at least once a week for a run.  I was looking forward to the next 5k race that fall.  I had been running the route from the 2008 5k and finally felt comfortable with the distance.  This time my wife and I both ran the race, while my children participated in the “dash” events.  My wife finished at 40:13, a pace of 12:58 minutes per mile and my new 5k PR (personal record) was 30:13, a pace of 9:45 minutes per mile.  I still remember how excited I was about my time and being able to watch my wife cross the finish with a great time as well.  That following month my sister finished her first Marathon and I was in awe knowing how hard it was for me just to get to where I was.
I began searching online for ways to improve my run and came across a few blogs related to running and got hooked.  I started reading about some of the gadgets people were using and ended up buying my first Garmin Forerunner that year.  I had also found the GO! St. Louis website where the St. Louis Half Marathon was said to be one of the largest in the United States, selling out months in advance.  I signed up for the half-marathon just to experience the event, not knowing if I would be able to run the entire distance.
I found a training program and started immediately.  This ended up being the first year I would run through the winter months.  My wife and family were incredibly supportive and filled my Christmas stocking with all the cold weather running gear I would need.  I started to experience running in an entirely different way than I had before.  I watched the sun rise on several morning runs as well as followed it back to the Earth’s horizon during my evening runs.
Spring 2010 was here and race day came quicker than I had expected. The furthest I had run during my training was 10 miles.  I still wasn’t sure I could finish the entire race without walking, but began to feel the excitement build.  I did end up running the whole race with little difficulty, partly due to the fact that spectators lined the streets, cheering on runners for the entire 13.1 mile course.  I ran my first half-marathon in 2-hours and 10 minutes!
I continued running through the summer and had another half-marathon in the back of my mind.  My sister had visited the previous summer and ran a half-marathon while she was here.  When she left I promised I would run one with her when she returned.  With one half-marathon under my belt, I felt pretty good about it.  Unfortunately my Mother’s health became an issue that summer so we postponed our race for later in the year.
My training runs took on new meaning as I started to think about incurable diseases and how being able to run really is a gift.  My sister has been using her runs to give back for several years now, most recently running in the New York City Marathon to help raise money for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  I want to stay healthy for my children and I want them to grow up strong and healthy as well.  My 6-year old daughter loves to run with me, so I take her on short runs when the weather is nice, hoping that I can lead by example.
My sister and I registered for the Lewis & Clark Half-Marathon in October 2010.  This time around I had a lot to motivate me and I knew I could run the 13.1 miles.  I had a goal to beat 2-hours and only needed to keep my average pace faster than a 9:00 minute mile to do this.  I started out at a slow, but comfortable pace and wasn’t feeling too bad as my pace increased throughout the race.  I began to really push myself as we approached the last mile, finishing my second half marathon in 1-hour and 53 minutes, a pace of 8:31 minutes per mile!  My sister had finished almost 15-minutes ahead of me at 1-hour and 39 minutes.
With my second half-marathon behind me I started to look forward to the GO! St. Louis Half-Marathon in the spring of 2011.  I wanted to challenge myself, but really didn’t feel ready to make my spring race a full marathon.  Then almost as if on cue, The Competitor Group and FLEET FEET St. Louis announced that the Lewis & Clark would be rebranded as part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series in 2011.  To further tempt me they offered a special entry fee for the first 500 participants who registered.  Needless to say I have signed up for my first marathon.  I will be using this blog as a training journal as I try to achieve my goal of running 26.2 miles under 4-hours.